Runn’n over the Rebels: LSU and RB Derrius Guice roll to 40-24 victory at Ole Miss
OXFORD, Miss. — No, that wasn’t Leonard Fournette running over the Ole Miss Rebels.
It was Derrius Guice.
He’s back. And his LSU Tigers are bowl eligible, on a three-game winning streak and flying high heading into their bye week.
Guice raced for 276 yards, LSU defensive backs picked off three passes and the 24th-ranked Tigers thumped Ole Miss 40-24 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night, a rousing victory against coach Ed Orgeron’s former program.
The Tigers (6-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) claimed their first win here since 2011, and Orgeron matched his number of league wins in three years as Ole Miss’ head coach (three) in eight games as the permanent leader in Baton Rouge.
Orgeron and players celebrated deep into the night on Ole Miss’ field, holding up the Magnolia Bowl Trophy after whipping a school that fired him a decade ago. The coach downplayed a win over his former team. His players did not.
“Even before the game, we felt the energy,” defensive end Greg Gilmore said. “He didn’t say anything out of character, but we felt the energy. We played it for him a little bit.”
The Tigers throttled Ole Miss in a similar fashion to a year ago, this time using a different running back to roll up chunks of yards. Leonard Fournette broke the school’s single-season rushing mark with 284 yards against the Rebels in a 38-21 win last season in Tiger Stadium.
Tonight, his former underling did the damage against Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3) and interim coach Matt Luke.
Guice broke through on this cool Mississippi night after a sluggish month of battling a lingering knee injury. His 276 yards came on 22 carries for a 12.5-yard average and he fell just 10 yards shy of breaking the school’s single-season mark he set last year.
He became the first player in SEC history with three 250-yard rushing games in his career, accomplishing something players like Georgia great Herschel Walker and Auburn tailback Bo Jackson never did. Guice had 98 yards after the first quarter and 126 at half, and running back Darrel Williams became the first player in school history to have 100 yards receiving and 100 yards rushing.
Guice, a junior from Baton Rouge, ripped off runs of 59, 33 and 48 yards, and the Tigers jumped out to leads of 13-3 in the second quarter and 23-9 in the third quarter. LSU scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the third to pull away, and quarterback Danny Etling completed a 60-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Foster Moreau for the final dagger with 10:24 left.
It sent Rebels fans back to their partying places in the famous Grove — for LSU, just another run-heavy whipping of this SEC Western Division rival.
Three of the top four rushing performances against Ole Miss since 2004 are LSU players: Guice, Fournette’s 284 last season and Alley Broussard with 250 in 2004.
Connor Culp booted four field goals and has made seven straight since his promotion to starting kicker, and the Tigers defense swarmed hotshot quarterback Shea Patterson, a former 5-star prospect heavily recruited by LSU while he attended Calvary Baptist in Shreveport.
Kevin Toliver, John Battle and Grant Delpis picked off Patterson, and edge rusher Arden Key came alive with some roaring quarterback pressures, two sacks and a forced fumble.
“He’s just getting into playing shape right now,” Orgeron said of Key. “We needed that.”
Running back Darrel Williams gashed the Rebels on the ground, too, gaining 103 yards, but he did much of his damage in the air. The senior had four receptions for 105 yards to become the first LSU player to crack the 100-yard receiving mark since Eddie Fuller did it against these Rebels in 1989.
Now the Tigers get a break. They’ll have an off week before facing top-ranked Alabama (8-0, 5-0), a monster of a program that’s won six straight games against the Tigers.
The focus immediately turned to the Tide after the game. Orgeron addressed the match against the Tide in his postgame address.
His group enters the clash on a roll. After losing to Troy at home, LSU has won three straight games, all against league foes and two of them on the road. The Tigers won at Florida 17-16, stormed back to beat Auburn 27-23 and walloped the Rebels in a place where they hadn’t won since a 52-3 victory in 2011.
“We’re confident. They fought,” Orgeron said. “We were in a hole. We dug ourselves out of a hole.”
Orgeron’s team burst out of the gate in this one.
The Tigers rolled up 85 yards on their first three plays, including a 63-yard swing pass to Williams, to set up a game-opening field goal. Guice gained 91 yards on his first five carries and carried the ball on all three plays of a 75-yard touchdown drive to make it 10-3 about 10 minutes into the game.
Guice entered with a long run of 25 yards this season. He had three runs longer than that in the first three quarters and broke through his season-high of 122 yards, set in the season opener, proving that he’s returned to nearly full health.
Key flashed like never before this year in that first quarter, rolling up three solo tackles and forcing a fumble on a sack.
LSU’s two stars shined for the first time this season, each mostly recovered from various issues. Guice injured his left knee in preseason camp and appeared to aggravate it at Mississippi State. He gained just 135 yards in the four games following that 30-point loss in Starkville, Mississippi.
Orgeron returned here for a third time since his firing in 2007. He came here as a defensive line coach for Tennessee (2009) and LSU (2015).
He emerged from the tunnel to raucous boos from a red-clad Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd. They’re well aware of what this man did or didn’t do in three seasons in Oxford. He was 10-25 here with just three SEC victories.
LSU played Saturday without two key defensive reserves, nose tackle Ed Alexander and outside linebacker Michael Divinity, and starting inside linebacker Donnie Alexander. The Tigers left Ed Alexander and Divinity both at home in Baton Rouge for unknown reasons. Alexander is likely battling an injury. He wore a gold jersey this week in practice, signifying limited contact.